Tag Archives: Mark C. Taylor

Scenes From Around Town: Laurie Anderson Talks Spirituality

Mark C. Taylor, Laurie Anderson, Irving Sandler and Gregory Amenoff talk art and spirituality at Columbia University. February 10, 2011. (Image Credit: Tempestt Hazel)

It was a hard decision to make.  Do I miss going to the Metropolitan Museum and mingling with all of you amazing CAA Conference attendees or do I indulge my love for new media and performance by seeing Laurie Anderson speak at Columbia University?  It was hard, but I ultimately realized that I may never get this chance again so I headed over to Columbia University to hear the artist talk.

Thursday evening Columbia’s School of the Arts partnered with the Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life to present Refiguring the Spiritual with 1972 alumna Laurie Anderson.  Art historian Irving Sandler, Chair of the Visual Arts Program Gregory Amenoff and Chair of the Department of Religion Mark C. Taylor eventually joined Anderson on stage for a conversation about her work and the ways in which it flirts with the spiritual, invisible, subversive and unknown.

Laurie Anderson discusses her garden proposal. February 10, 2011. (Image Credit: Tempestt Hazel)

Anderson started off alone on the stage, taking about her experience as Artist In Residence at NASA and the first time she was invited to design an interactive, multi-media garden.   As you can imagine, Anderson was a very dynamic and humorous speaker–often getting laughs from the audience when recalling her memories of these challenging and enlightening moments in her career that took her from solid ground to the far-reaching, often unfathomable corners of the universe.

Once the other three joined her on stage for a conversation it was still dominated by Anderson, which was fine with me.  My issue with the discussion was not only the lack of true conversation between speakers, but it also seemed to be in a constant state of tug-of-war between her current beliefs as a Buddhist who tries to live in the moment and “see things as they are”, her Christian upbringing and the Christian-dominated comments and questions.  Although I felt that there was a certain something missing from the equation of the group on the stage, there were several great moments from the talk where Anderson gave insights that I will be packing in my suitcase and taking with me to Chicago.  Here are a few:

“I, in many ways, don’t know a lot about art, what it’s for, who it’s made for, what it’s doing.  I do know that I don’t think it’s to make the world a better place because it seems like such a 19th Century concept.  If you do think that as an artist, as a working artist, then you have to ask yourself, ‘Better for who?’.  For you?  For me? For the people over there who are analyzing what it is?”

“It is the frightening and fantastic feeling that this is all there is…” – Laurie Anderson discusses the joys and fears found in meditation and living in the moment

“Art is sensual.  What if you experienced art so intensely that artists didn’t have to make things?”  - Laurie Anderson discussing what art could be hundreds of years from now

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